Oregon State football is adrift as Coach Smith heads to Michigan State
Beavs and Washington State still working to hold on to the Pac 2; many questions remain
THIS COLUMN IS WRITTEN IN THE FORM OF A LETTER
Dear Coach Smith,
Many Beaver fans were caught off guard by the Saturday news that you would be moving on from Corvallis—relocating from Oregon State to Michigan State football.
Friday night’s 31-7 loss at Oregon was a gut punch for Beaver Nation. Last years’s big rally for the win in 2022 at Reser Stadium feels like a distant memory—as the Ducks big victory has them in the Pac-12 championship game in Vegas against Washington. The announcement Saturday morning confirming your relocation to East Lansing was like another crushing blow to the solar plexus. First, the Beavs fail miserably to compete with Oregon, and next, the popular coaching savior of OSU football has decided to move on. Everyone who is a Beavers fan is hurting.
Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan—unlike OSU fans dumping large amounts of unforgiving hate on your decision, I do understand your choice.
The Pac-12, which has been reduced to the Pac 2 of Oregon State and Washington State, is a shell of its previous self—pulled apart by a combination of poor mismanagement of the “Conference of Champions” over the past few years, and a general desire for television revenue that moved 10 of 12 schools to either the Big 10, the Big 12, or the Atlantic Coast Conference. Left holding the bag are the Beavs and the Cougs—who are doing all they can to salvage their programs with a court case aimed at controlling revenues from the Pac-12.
Still, the word betrayal rolls off the lips of some Beaver fans, who feel like you didn’t really give the University a chance to make a serious coaching extension to counter the MSU offer. In addition, many OSU supporters believe—perhaps correctly—that your time might be short in East Lansing with no history with Sparty. While some Beaver supporters were critical early in your return to Corvallis, the bulk of the fan base was very patient with the gradual blooming of the Beavs gridiron program the last three seasons. Just a word of warning.
Heading into 2024, Washington State appears to have the edge over Oregon State for football scheduling and recruitment. The Cougars still have their head coach, while the Beavers now must search for a successor to you. OSU might select Trent Bray—the team’s defensive coordinator—who really boosted the Beavs’ defensive squad with excellent play-calling beginning in late 2021, after being named as DC. There are also some solid coaches in California who might look to OSU as a step up. The Beavs could attract coaches such as Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford—who had success as an assistant at Oregon and as head coach at Cal—where he was twice Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year. Also available could be St. Jose State’s Brent Brennan. And—if Mike Riley is still available—they could bring back the OSU Hall-of-Famer for a third stint with the Beavers.
Beavers Athletic Director Scott Barnes could choose any one of the named coaches—or none of them. From a press release shared after Smith’s announced move, Barnes stated that the school “has immediately begun” a national search for a new head coach. Hey, Coach—maybe you could give some hints to Barnes about who would be a good “fit” for OSU.
The Beavers could also lose a long list of current players to the transfer port hole. All-everything RB Damien Martinez has said he is planning to come back to Corvallis. While hoping former West Salem wideout and kick returner Anthony Gould will stick in Corvallis, there are no guarantees from a player with just one more season to play. Wouldn’t be surprised, however, if 6-3, four-star QB Aidan Chiles decides to relocate. Be watching player announcements on X (formerly Twitter) carefully. Jonathan, it also wouldn’t be a shock if a few of your former players follow you to the “Land of Sparty.”
OSU has also already lost a prep player commitment. Florida three-star athlete Andrew Brinson announced Saturday that he has decommitted from the Beavers, and will reach out to schools that had previously made offers to him.
The Beaver roster could look very different in a matter of weeks or months. Where the team will actually land, conference wise, could include a dramatic change because of those afore-mentioned roster adjustments. This is why many Beaver Believers are feeling hurt by your decision to relocate to MSU, Jonathan. The Beaver football program is losing its well-established groundwork set up by you.
In the end, the entire Pac-12, such as it was, is to blame for the demise of teams in the Pac-12. The schools that jumped ship earlier are losing some prominence, not to mention some media cash. And the conference as a whole is stung by schedules two time zones away that keep athletes on the road for excessive numbers of days.
Jonathan—you did so much for Beaver football during your time in Corvallis. The return of a winning tradition at OSU. Gridiron enthusiasm that kept the stands packed, even while the stadium was being remodeled. And while loving the Beaver supporters, Jonathan, you also managed to bolster booster financing of the Reser renewal project. But fans still feel short-changed—wishing for long term stability for many seasons to come. That is where your decision to leave cut so many OSU admirers to the quick.
The OSU faithful will miss you greatly. Even those who are mad about your departure will grudgingly admit you gave so much to Beaver Nation that you will never be forgotten.
Thanks so much for all you did in Corvallis, Jonathan. I know I speak for many who wish you luck in your continued college coaching career. You brought magic back to OSU.
Gilman on Sports
Of note: Long-time receivers coach/passing game coordinator Kefense Hynson has been named the interim Head Coach at Oregon State. He served in his previous position since December of 2017. Coach Hynson is a 2003 graduate from Willamette University in Salem, and has 19 years of coaching experience at the college level.